Various versions of the Kia Sorento have crossed the Autoblog floats a few times now, and while they weren’t mind blowing in any way, they do offer an attractive mix of features and generally good prices to make them a “fair” SUV for a lot of people. It’s an SUV with a lot of variety not just in trim levels, but in powertrains. So is there a “fair” version of the “fair” SUV? Yes, there are, and it’s the 2021 Kia Sorento HEV (and the 2022 model that just arrived), which strikes a happy medium in the lineup, and even the wider SUV market in terms of price, driving experience and fuel economy that make it a must-have for buyers.
A quick note, this review will focus primarily on the Sorento hybrid’s powertrain and how it relates to the driving experience. For more information on all other aspects, check out our full review of the Kia Sorento 2022.
What mainly differentiates the Sorento HEV is of course its hybrid powertrain. It combines a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder with an electric motor. Combined power reaches 227 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It’s hooked up to a conventional six-speed automatic transmission and your choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Those numbers put it between the base 191-horsepower Sorento and the 281-horsepower turbo inline-four fitted to all previous Sorentos we’ve tested. The HEV is also more powerful than any of the smaller two-row hybrids such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota’s RAV4 and Venza, although slightly less than the larger Toyota Highlander three-row hybrid. There’s also the Ford Explorer Hybrid, but it’s exclusive to the expensive top trim levels and weirdly prioritizes performance over fuel economy.
While the Sorento Hybrid sits in the middle of its non-electrified siblings for power, its fuel economy is unmistakably superior. The front-wheel drive version is the most frugal with 37 mpg combined, and the all-wheel drive drops the rating to 35 mpg. That’s an improvement of about 10 mpg over all other Sorento models, and could save you up to $ 650 a year on fuel, according to the EPA. It lags slightly behind the smaller hybrid competition, which ranges from 38 to 41 mpg (CR-V and Ford Escape), but is quite comparable to the Highlander Hybrid and around 10 mpg ahead of the Ford Explorer.
When it comes to the actual driving experience, the turbo hybrid engine is enjoyable in just about any day-to-day driving situation. Starting with a fire, you will find that the hybrid system eliminates the usual delay that results from an automatic start / stop system that restarts the engine. The electric motor lets you start as soon as you step on the accelerator pedal and when the engine cranks it does so extremely quiet and smoothly.
In town, the Sorento hybrid is relaxed and happy. You hardly need to use revs to move thanks to the torque of the electric motor and turbo motor. It is also very quiet and the electric assistance helps with responsiveness. We also like Kia’s use of a traditional six-speed automatic in its hybrid powertrains, as it results in more “normal” acceleration characterized by revving followed by gear changes. This avoids the hum and unusual revs of the usual e-CVT hybrid.
It’s when you need or want extra acceleration when the Sorento Hybrid shows its efficiency comes with a trade-off. Under a heavy foot, you get a low hum under the hood, and it shows that the top end is a bit weak. The transmission, while smooth and generally nicer than a CVT, is extremely slow to change, which is especially evident if you’re trying to use the paddles. Sport mode only keeps gears longer and makes steering heavier.
The Sorento is also very comfortable. The bumps aren’t hard and it’s pretty quiet. It’s a bit more springy than we’d like when hitting bumps, but that’s not much of a problem. The steering is precise and well-weighted, although there is a bit of body roll and little rush to turn. The braking sensation is spongy, but quite easy to modulate.
And as we said before, the interior of the Sorento is spacious and stylish. Most notable is the fact that the third row is usable by adults. It’s still not great for long trips, but it works. It’s also impressive considering the Highlander isn’t much better, despite its larger exterior size. The dashboard is modern and has nice little details, although the plastics are a bit cheap. The infotainment is also fun to use, and most 2022 models benefit from the upgraded 10.25-inch touchscreen standard. The base LX and some remaining 2021 models get the old, lower-resolution 8-inch system, but it’s still just as easy to use.
So what will you spend to get a Sorento hybrid? It depends a bit on the model year. The 2021 models started at $ 34,765 and the 2022 examples started at $ 35,165. Upgrade from S to EX and you’ll spend $ 37,765, but a little less on a 2022 to $ 36,965 on a 2022. The only notable changes to the 2022 model are the aforementioned touchscreen and the addition of the drivetrain. optional integral to both trims. Both versions are equally well equipped. One disappointing aspect is that you can’t get the more rugged SX or X-Line finishes with the regular hybrid. While X-Line is strictly gasoline, at least the SX is available on the new Sorento PHEV 2022. In fact, it’s the only trim available. Of course, that means it’s expensive, starting at around $ 45,000. At least it comes with a tax cut and it has the ability to run fully electric, which saves even more on fuel costs.
The Sorento Hybrid’s pricing ultimately puts it very close to the more powerful non-hybrid turbo model, but given that the Sorento is not a sporty drive, we would much prefer the massive increase in fuel economy over the extra horsepower. . The price also places this small row of three rows between the two smaller rows and the three larger rows. At the top of the two-row hybrid package is the CR-V Hybrid with a price tag of $ 32,165. At the bottom of the big three-row scale is the Highlander Hybrid with a base price of $ 40,070. Granted, if you can do without a third row you can save quite a bit of money, but if not, the Sorento is superb value that should be on your short list of three-row SUVs. It is sleek, spacious and efficient without sacrificing practicality or performance over the competition.